The Pegasus Bay team have impeccable timing. They conduct their New Zealand-wide mail order tastings at the start of December, giving their loyal clientele the opportunity of tasting their current range of wines along with a selection of new releases, rare bottlings which include cellar-aged vintages and large format sizes, enabling purchase in time for Christmas! Not only can their customers enjoy a tasting on the night, but order stocks for future consumption. The mail order nights are always busy with large numbers of attendees.
It is a strange occurrence that on some days, wines can look particularly attractive. The Pegasus Bay mail order tasting at the Museum Hotel in Wellington was one such occasion. We all understand that there are many influences on our perception of a wine at any given time, such as the time and place of the tasting, the psychological and physical state of the tasting, down to the temperature of the wine as well as the glass from which the wines are tasted. These are relatively tangible factors. Then there’s the more elusive, well to some people anyway, such as what type of day it is on the biodynamic calendar. Fruit days are the best, and Flower days particularly good for aromatic wines. Leaf days and Root days are not recommended as the best to appreciate wines. I didn’t investigate further, but no matter what, the Pegasus Bay wines were happy and so were all the attendees. www.pegasusbay.com
Belinda Donaldson – Pegasus Bay
Belinda Donaldson – Pegasus Bay
The Wellington Tasting
In Wellington were Edward and Belinda Donaldson offering 17 wines to taste. Here are my brief impressions of the wines:
The tasting was led by the Sauvignon/Semillon 2012 (18.5/20), a wine I’ve seen as elegant and concentrated, showing the cooler 2012 vintage to its best, only on this occasion, there was a little more richness and sweetness with ripe tropical fruit and lantana notes adding lusciousness.
This was my first taste of the Riesling 2012 (19.0-/20), and the wine adds to the evidence that Riesling performed exceptionally well that year. Beautifully rich with a layer of marmalade and honied botrytis, and complexing nuances of toast now appearing. Classical Waipara Valley exotic jasmine florals, and the wine still retaining delicacy and a dryness which prevents it tipping over the edge into being medium-sweet. This was paired with the Riesling 2011 (1.5 L) (19.0/20), looking sensational today, with positive secondary toasty development, a harmonious and complete core and plenty of palate presence, showing the warmer 2011 vintage, and fulfilling its potential.
The last of the aromatic whites was the Gewurztraminer 2012 (18.5-/20), with deep ginger characters to the Turkish Delight, revealing a slight oily and unctuous texture with honied elements. This was tasting more off-dry today, possibly coming after Riesling 2011 which appeared more sweet, though both at 21.5 g/L RS. I noted “The aromatic whites look stunning today”.
I understand that Matt Donaldson is taking the Chardonnay wines to a greater level of elegance. Again, this was my first taste of the Chardonnay 2012 (18.5/20), and discernibly more refined, drier and in the nuttier, less fruit-sweet white burgundy style. This has a slippery and fresh flow, and a waxy, textural richness that displays finesse with power. I hadn’t seen the Chardonnay 2008 (18.5+/20) for a number of years now, but served from 1.5 L magnum , it had evolved especially well, with complex nutty and mealy aromas and flavours, soft, smooth and warm with hints of oak, smoke and toast as well as some butter (spread over the toast, of course)! Third in this group was the ‘Virtuoso’ Chardonnay 2009 (19.0/20), very refined and penetrating in aromatics with detailed nutty fruit and oak, along with oxidative complexities, yet the bouquet still fresh Tightly bound and possessing great vitality, the freshness and acid cut is a feature. This will age extremely well.
A series of Pinot Noirs to start the reds. The Pinot Noir 2011 (18.0+/20) light in colour with an ethereal, fragrant nose of ripe red cherry fruit and subtle floras, somewhat restrained on palate, with subtle layers of red cherries, berries and florals, then nuts and spices becoming revealed. This has an excellent line with firmness, promising much more to come. In comparison the Pinot Noir 2010 (1.5 L) (18.5+/20) brighter in fruit aromatics and expression, now showing complex secondary dried herb and undergrowth notes on nose, some smoke and game adding interest. On palate soft and silky smooth, and a palate that blossoms in ethereal flavours, finishing with dry red berry fruits. This is beginning to show complexity. Next the ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir 2011 (19.0-/20), pale garnet coloured, beautifully elegant with delicate and intricate red floral perfumes, the wine exuding finesse. Still luscious and succulent, but retaining delicacy and poise and a very long, fine-textured line. Even better was the ‘Prima Donna’ Pinot Noir 2009 (1.5 L) (19.5-/20), again garnet coloured, but complete on nose with ripe red berry fruits showing very little development. Sweet and succulent on palate, gentle acidity and harmonious mouthfeel with integrated, fine-grained tannins. Smooth and velvety in flow, with an underlying power. This is great wine that will age another 6-10 years.
The Bordeaux-styled reds gave nothing away to the Pinot Noirs, and were sumptuous. The Merlot/Cabernet 2011 (18.0+/20) quite plush with ripe dark plum aromas, but possessing a deep core, revealing a little curranty nuance with air. Quite tightly bound, but with undeniable sweetness and richness, ripe dark plums and some red berry fruits, sitting in supple but positive tannins. Some cedar and spicy oak unfolds as it leads to a very long finish. Very similar was the Merlot/Cabernet 2010 (1.5 L) (18.0/20), deep ruby-red colour, fresh with redcurrant fruit predominant, showing some cooler notes, but sweet liquorice and plums emerging in glass. On palate the sweet fruit underscored by a firm tannin line, but fine-grained to leave a satiny mouthfeel. Fine currant and hints of leaf, and impressive balance.
Onto the sweeter wine bracket, headed by the new ‘Aria’ Late Picked Riesling 2013 (18.0+/20) still tightly bound but with warmer vintage ripeness, caramel and burnished honey notes. The palate has plenty of fruit extract, lending a firm and solid core, displaying ripe citrus fruits, honey and a touch of caramel. This will certainly develop greater complexity. The ‘Aria’ Late Picked Riesling 2008 (1.5 L) (19.0+/20) has matured gloriously and is drinking on its plateau now. Light golden colour, full and packed with honey, marmalade and botrytis. This is opulent, the touch of VA giving lift. Medium-sweet and lusciously opulent, but balanced with good acid line. Delicious cream and custard textures as in the best mature German Auslesen, and the complexing toasty-kero interest. This may just be beginning to dry?
Then the fully sweet wines, starting with the ‘Encore’ Noble Riesling 2010 (375 ml) (19.5/20), densely packed with rich, complex layered aromas of citrus and tropical fruits, honey, talc botrytis, marmalade, lifted with a touch of VA. Opulent and very sweet on palate, exotic tropical fruits, decidedly luscious and decadent, but with balanced, elevated acidity. This retains its varietal cut and floral and citrus aromatic nature underneath it all. Fittingly as the last wine, the ‘Finale’ Noble Semillon 2011 (375 ml) (19.0-/20), deep golden coloured, this has a full-on nose, densely concentrated with crystallised fruits, burnished honey and caramel, notes of toffee, and oak toastiness. Full-bodied , powerful, warming and generous. Broad and deeply flavoured with orange marmalade, tangerines and honey with caramel. This has an oiliness and plenty of alcohol drive. Nutty oak and complex toast and toffee are all there. Sometimes, over-the-top works!